DES 105: Design and Composition

Gain an understanding of composition techniques

What makes any image work, in graphic design or photography? Composition, literally the assembly or construction of elements, is the artful arrangement that guides the viewer's eye and unifies your work. In this online 2D design course, you'll develop your compositional skills by analyzing everything from Grand Masters to Madison Avenue ads to tubes of toothpaste. Through a series of artistic projects, you'll learn the principles of effective composition.

Graphic Design | 1.5 credits | Next Start:
August 26, 2024
Morgan Bryson design Student work by Morgan Bryson.
Visit the Student Gallery.

About This Course

Project-Based Learning

Project include spatial compositions, studies in unity, balance, rhythm, and proportion, and a poster design project.

What Skills Will I Develop?

Students in this course can expect to learn to:

  • Develop an understanding of concepts in two-dimensional design, including positive and negative space, and how to test a composition for empty or crowded space.
  • Create three compositions showing an understanding of open, closed, and divided negative space.
  • Create a sense of unity in a composition with proximity, repetition, continuation, and underlying color.
  • Balance a composition by using color, value, shape, and position.
  • Incorporate repetitive, alternating, and progressive rhythm into a composition.
  • Create four compositions that demonstrate an understanding of unity, balance, rhythm, and proportion.
  • Create a focal point in a composition by using contrast, placement, or eye contact.
  • Identify how a viewer's eye is directed through a composition by line or organization of information.
  • Identify how a composition is affected by the visual push and pull of overlapping planes or the the viewing distance and angle of the work.
  • Create an ad design uses a focal point and movement to direct the viewer's eye through the ad.

What Software and Supplies Do I Need?

  • Computer with Internet connection.
  • Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop or equivalent programs.
  • Basic experience in the above software.


Course Instructor(s)

The course is taught by the following instructor(s):

Course Outline

    1. Shape and Form

      Through composition, a design can be playful, serious, humorous, or moving. To begin the course, you'll explore the concept of two-dimensional shape, a foundation principle in graphic design. You'll look at the way leading artists and designers use positive and negative space, creating intriguing effects through open, closed, and divided space.

    2. The Elements of Design

      Too big, too small, or just right? This week explores elements of design, looking at how unified compositions are created through proximity, repetition, continuation, and color. Balance and rhythm are explored as creative compositional strategies and you'll learn how to use the "Golden Section," discovered in 5th Century Greece, in contemporary compositions.

    3. Energy and Movement

      How do designers attract the eye? By creating compositions with energy and movement. In this session, you'll learn how to create a strong focal point and move the viewer's eye along a chosen route in your work. You'll look at how overlapping planes energizes a layout through push and pull.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do The Courses Work?

Our courses are project-based and instructor-led. In each course you’ll complete a series of lectures, projects, discussions, and critiques designed to stretch your creative skills. Weekly assignment deadlines keep you on track, and with no set-logins or Zoom meetings, you can build your studies around your schedule.

Who Are The Instructors?

Our courses are developed and taught by our industry-leading faculty of creative professionals. This means that you’ll learn in-demand skills, get feedback on your work, and build a portfolio of creative work. View our Student Gallery for featured student projects.

When Can I Start?

Classes start January, April, and August, and this course can be completed as part of a 15-week term in 8 weeks. College credit from this course can be applied to a range of degree and certificate programs at Sessions College.

How Do I Register?

To register for a program, complete our program application. To register for this course on an individual basis, please contact our admissions team at An Admissions Advisor will contact you to setup your enrollment.

Fall 2024 Course Tuition and Fees
Registration Fee* $200
Total Course Price $650

Registration fees are nonrefundable after 5 days from enrollment.

Is Sessions College Accredited?

Yes. Since 2001, Sessions College has been accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a recognized accrediting agency and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).